The state's higher education program is likely to receive just 54 percent of its requested $37 million in additional state funding, according to the State Board of Regents Chief Executive Officer.

Rolfe Kerr, commissioner of higher education, said Gov. Norm Bangerter has indicated he would suggest the Legislature approve only $20 million in additional funding in fiscal year 1991."We're probably not going to get all the funding we need, and that's bad news," Kerr said during an address to American Federation of Teachers representatives Saturday. "But it is a substantial increase, and that's the good news."

According to Kerr, that $20 million could amount to a little more than 20 percent of the state budget, while in the past few years higher education has received a little less than 18 percent.

Overall, higher education will spend $398 million this year alone, and that budget doesn't cover cost-of-living adjustments for higher education employees or to provide for enrollment increases at each state institution.

Consequently, Kerr said he and the Board of Regents have suggested a progressive five-step plan for funding not only for enrollment and inflationary relief but also for urgent programs that will provide better research and development facilities and equipment and for keeping up with rising fuel costs.

"We realize that there is only so much the Legislature can do, since there are so many other state agencies they fund. However, higher education can't continue to absorb all these cost cutbacks in its programs."

Higher education could be in even more dire straits should the state pass Initiative A, the removal of the state sales tax on food, he said.

"Proponents of this initiative tell us there is this tremendous $200 million surplus from which the various state agencies can still be funded, but they don't tell us what that surplus is."

Kerr said the surplus actually amounts to $50 million in "rainy day" funds that are required by state law - such as those many cities and counties use in case of emergencies or huge budget shortfalls - $100 million in projected increased budget revenues that, should they materialize, would be available for use in 1992 and $50 million that could be used for state use.

"Then you figure that there are several state agencies besides public and higher education that the Legislature appropriates for, including prisons and health and human services, so there isn't much left for increased educational needs."

One thing he said he and the Board of Regents are loathe to do is pass additional tuition increases. In the proposed FY 91 budget for higher education, the Board has passed a 6-percent tuition raise for the state's four-year institutions, a 4-percent raise for Snow College, the College of Eastern Utah and Utah Valley Community College and a 3-percent increase and Dixie College and Salt Lake Community College.

He said a much more substantial tuition increase at Dixie College during the late '80s severely hampered that institution's enrollment, "which is just starting to turn around now.

"We're going to hold down those costs as much as we can, and hope the state can help us make up the difference."